Head Blue Jay Football Coach John Welty and his coaching staff are busy preparing for the arrival of team members August 10 and looking forward to getting those returning players and new recruits out on the field.
“This time of year, you start smelling that grass and thinking about football,” Coach Welty said. “We’re knocking out our playbooks now and getting all our administrative work done. We’ve got a good group of kids coming in.”
Once the 70-plus players arrive, the first two days will primarily be taken up with moving in, paperwork, meetings, getting equipment, and taking the impact test for concussions. Then the afternoon of August 11, the team will have its first workout.
Coach Welty has developed a practice process for football camp that obviously brings great results to his teams. The evening before a practice, he shows the players a film of what skill or play they are going to work on the next day. The next morning the team gathers in street clothes to learn the skill or play. Then in the afternoon the players are dressed for practice and ready to put all they have learned together and work on executing effectively. His coaching philosophy is: “We try to put the kids in the position to be successful and then it’s up to them to do it.”
Coach Welty believes in approaching practice with intensive two-hour sessions at a fast tempo.
“One of the biggest adjustments for new players is getting used to that much more accelerated pace of practice at the collegiate level,” says Coach Welty. “But I consider it a compliment when they come up to me after a two-hour practice and say, ‘Coach, it feels like we have only been out there ten minutes.’ Then we can feel confident we have had a good practice.”
When asked about his returning players, Coach Welty gives them high marks, stating, “this is the fastest group of kids returning we’ve ever had.” He describes quarterbacks Trent White and Matt Quarles as “the fastest guys I’ve ever coached in the league,” and Latif Adams as “the best tailback in the league for the last two years.” His offensive line is also “stronger than we’ve ever been up front. Our returning guys on offense are dynamite.”
While he says his defense is young, Coach Welty pointed to several standouts such as Anthony Washington, who is “the best cover guy in the league” and Antoine Harris, “the other corner guy who is not as tall but just as good.” Coach Welty is also glad to have Zach Roseman returning, who led the team in tackles last year.
Coach Welty has some new recruits that he says “are going to raise some eyebrows,” but when asked who they were, he chose to keep his cards close to his vest, telling people to “come to that first home game and see.”
When asked what he tells the team the first day, Coach Welty said: “I tell them I only care about one thing right now and that’s beating our first opponent.” That first opponent is Gustavas Adolphus College, which the Blue Jays will face away on September 2, a team Coach Welty thinks “is probably the best team we’ll play all year.”
The first home game will be the next weekend, September 9, against University of Minnesota-Morris.
Coach Welty has been coaching at Westminster since 1998 and although there have been other opportunities, whenever they have come up, he has discussed them with his family, and the answer has always been “we don’t chase greenbacks, we chase happiness.”
Currently, over 100 former Westminster football players that played for Coach Welty have gone on to become football coaches themselves. Two of them, Scott Pingel (CBC High School-6A class) and Justin Conyers (Battle High School-5A class) led their teams to state championships the same year, beating the teams of other coaches who were Westminster graduates in their semi-final clashes. Ben Woolf , an alumnus who is on the coaching staff of Kirkwood High School, has helped win two state championships. The new Fulton High School football coach is Westminster alumnus Blake Logan.
He also points out that Westminster football players have gone on to be successful in all different professional fields—doctors, dentists, salesmen, attorneys—but in Coach Welty’s well known modest demeanor, he gives the Westminster community the credit. “We feel fortunate to play a role in preparing these young men, but it’s the influence of the Westminster community collectively that makes our graduates successful. The professors, the staff, and administrators all play significant roles in molding these young men into the successful professionals they are.”
Coach Tom O’Donnell, the new offensive coordinator, is excited about starting the season. “In my short time here, the number one thread I’ve pulled out and the reason I’m so excited for camp to start is Coach Welty is a big proponent of coaching the entirety of the young man–not just the football player, but the student, the boyfriend, the brother, the leader,” Coach O’Donnell says. “We want to make sure that that young man has a fantastic experience playing football for us. On the field we are going to compete and try to win every time we go out there, but not at all costs. The important thing is our players getting their degrees and being successful after they leave Westminster because they don’t just represent our football program, they represent the institution, and I am excited to be a part of it and learning more about how to do that. As far as I’m concerned, August 10th can’t come soon enough.”
Coach Welty has good reason to take pride in the players who go through his program because in a D-III program, his players receive no financial support for playing football. “Our kids love the sport so much, they are willing to pay for it. They aren’t on athletic scholarships. It’s a privilege and honor to coach these kids, and people should take advantage of the privilege and honor to watch them.”
Coach Welty and his staff hope their loyal Westminster fans are out there September 9 and attend all the other home games to cheer the players on to victory and show their Blue Jay pride.